I find myself wanting to write about power today. I suppose it is partly because I am internally grappling with the juxtaposition of Pope Francis and the election wrangling in Zimbabwe. I’ll focus on the former, and let you make your own comparisons. I have blown away by the impact that Pope Francis has made. In the last few weeks he has been named person of the year by Vanity Fair and has been the topic of articles in popular magazines like Esquire. There are still Vatican scandals aplenty, but Pope Francis remains an inspiration.
Power, in a social sense, is the capacity to influence people.
In this sense Pope Francis seems to have tremendous power. Stories and articles about him continue to flood social media, and even mainstream media has continued to give stories with a positive flavor column inches. And yet, whilst it is difficult to tell from this distance, I get the feeling that if something were to happen which meant he had to step down that he would be happy enough to relinquish the position and to retire gracefully into obscurity and simplicity. It may be that I am projecting my interpretation of Ignatian indifference onto him, but I don’t think so.
The more important question which emerges for me is – how do I wield power in my own life? Do I cling to the scraps that I have, or do I hold them loosely? Do I use my power for the benefit of the community I serve or for my own purposes?
We don’t magically acquire integrity and authenticity once we get to positions of power, we have to exercise these things now. If we don’t attend to the needs of those below us on the ladder now, what do we think is going to change once we have more power?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
It doesn’t matter what your arena is – just make sure that you are in there doing your bit – using the power that you do have for the benefit of the community. And when you think you could do a better job than someone else, be willing to step up and take your turn.